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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #104

JLA #104

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 25, 2004

Cover date: Late October 2004

Writer: Chuck Austen
Penciller: Ron Garney
Inker: Ron Garney

"The Pain of the Gods: Manhunter from Mars"

John-Paul Zito Reviewed by: John-Paul Zito

The JLA hold a round table discussion about Green Lantern's recent, reckless actions. J'onn J'onzz sits at the far end of the table, recluse and closed off. He doesn't think his comrades understand what true guilt is and they certainly don't understand him. He†exits the meeting in a subdued, if not rude,†manner and reports to his new job with the Kennedy Detective Agency under the alias John Jones.

J'onn does very well for himself at the new job. He closes all cases fast and with no fuss, the boss thinks he's the best P.I. they've ever had. However, something is fishy about this guy, he sits around in the office all day waiting for an assignment†and it's creeping people out. The boss orders an employee, Linda, to cozy up to J'onn and see what this guy is all about when he's not making the rounds investigating.

Linda and J'onn meet up after work and she clumsily asks him out to dinner. Her usual verbal jousting abilities are underscored by J'onn's matter of fact demeanour and she finds him intriguing; even more so when he abruptly excuses himself from the meal and ends their date.

The next day Linda reports to her boss that J'onn is just a normal guy, a bit too introspective, but a good guy nonetheless. She likes him.

After work Linda follows J'onn on his evening assignment to deliver a divorce complaint to an unfaithful husband. J'onn assumes the wife's form and approaches with ease. The husband is shocked to see his wife, even more shocked to see she's serving him with papers. He gets violent but J'onn merely assumes his natural state as the Martian Manhunter and makes sure the man knows to accept the papers and not go home.

Later at J'onn's home Linda arrives, she knows who John is now. She wants to know why J'onn ran off on her the other night in the restaurant. She's deduced that it's because he's afraid to get close to people, that he's pushed her and others away, moving from life to life with no emotional attachments. Just then the JLA arrive to fill in the blanks. J'onn is the way he is not because he's an alien but because he's lost everyone dear to him. His family, friends, and race were destroyed on Mars as he watched helplessly. He's been unable to genuinely form an emotional connection ever since he arrived on earth as a result.

The revelation strikes true with J'onn and he reverts to his true form. His feelings of inadequacies are mirrored by his team mates. They do understand guilt, they do understand him after all.

To Be Continued...

3Story - 3: I'm glad to see the obsessive hero bit has played out and Austen has moved on. In this issue J'onn J'onzz "pain" is more of a self made prison of emotional solitude. And no one has more reason to remain closed off and emotionally unavailable as J'onn does. Left unchecked his emotions have lead to the emergence of Furness and even allowed the terrorist organization Locust to dismantle the original JLA.

I enjoyed that J'onn's issues stemmed from the loss of his family. J'onn's feelings of uselessness counter the rest of the roster we've seen spotlighted so far who apparently suffer from savior complexes.

The execution was a little rough. There were a lot of scene changes and the events were pretty compressed for space reasons I'm sure. Compression works, but decompression is the norm now and I hate to just give a glib opinion on the matter but I've come to enjoy the more drawn out and nuanced stories. As a result, one shots have to have less going on in order for them to work.

The unceremonious arrival of the JLA in J'onn's apartment was a misstep and J'onn's quick action to violence with the husband was out of character. Otherwise I enjoyed Austen's fish-out-of-water approach to Manhunter. I don't know how often he'd orally†call attention to the differences between himself and the humans he walks among; but in this issue J'onn was clearly trying to distance himself and using any means necessary to do so.

5Art - 5: Ron's Manhunter is pretty run of the mill. Just good old Martian Manhunter. I was, however, very impressed with the panels that depicted J'onn's shape shifting. It was very animated almost like it stepped right out of a cartoon. I also enjoyed the image of J'onn hoisting the jerk husband into the air by his throat; despite the fact that I didn't like the scene.

2Cover Art - 2: It's not a poorly drawn cover or even an ill conceived concept. A green skinned P.I. peering out from beneath the brim of his fedora as the snow rushes around him is a very intriguing image... But the snow has†nothing to do with this issue and the image just doesn't pack the same punch that the last two covers did.

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